City hospitals to open 81 new beds before year's end By Journal Staff, Edmonton Journal October 22, 2010 Edmonton hospitals will open 81 new beds before the end of the year and should have no problem staffing them, even though many of the job openings have yet to be posted, says a top administrator with Alberta's health superboard.
"We are comfortable that staffing will not present an issue for us," said Deb Gordon, senior vice-president for the major tertiary hospitals for Alberta Health Services. She said opening Edmonton's hospital beds, plus 12 detox beds in a centre downtown and other continuing care beds, will cost about $50 million each year.
Heather Smith, president of the United Nurses of Alberta, said many of those beds aren't new and there aren't enough nurses to staff the ones already available.
"Staffing is going to be a huge challenge," said Smith, noting that 18 transition unit beds at the University Hospital for patients no longer needing acute care, but in need of care for a few days before going home or to a community bed, have been in flux because there aren't enough nurses to staff them.
Those beds were opened earlier this year, but not publicly announced, as were 30 new transition beds at the Royal Alexandra Hospital and 10 medical beds at the Misericordia and Grey Nuns which opened in May. Another 21 medical assessment beds at the Alex were to open in May, but have been delayed until November. Two more medical observation beds are heading to the Royal Alex.
"I'm disappointed with the lack of clarity," Smith said. "It's not as easy or as rapid to open and expand (beds) as it is to contract."
Calgary hospitals get 132 new beds, which were already announced in September at a cost of $15.7 million so that temporary beds could be moved out of hallways.
Even with that September announcement, Calgary will still have unopened beds in the Peter Lougheed Centre, where 140 beds were built in 2008 but never opened because of lack of money and staff. Many staff have already been hired as the beds open, but another 160 are needed before December's end to open the beds in the two cities.
The details about the beds came one day after Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky held a news conference about the proposed Alberta Health Act, then suddenly made the announcement about the additional beds.
"They are in serious damage control," Liberal MLA and health critic Kevin Taft said. "There's a huge gap between the minister and the reality of Alberta Health Services' daily life. ... I have to question once again the ability of this government to manage the health-care system."
David Eggen, executive director with Friends of Medicare, said the bed program seems cobbled together with no indication how nursing staff will be added.
"I really don't know if there are any new beds because there is no new money," Eggen said. "If they are going to do new beds, why didn't they do that before?"
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